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An autism diagnosis should not stop anyone from being a productive person and bringing his/her contribution to society. Both autistic teenagers and adults can get jobs, but they will likely need more support to achieve their goals.
Whether a teenager looking for his/her first job or an adult who already has some experience, there are two things to remember.
- You should have a job you want, one that brings you a sense of purpose.
- You should consider both your abilities and potential challenges.
Employment as an Autistic Teenager
If your autistic teenager is on the lookout for his/her first job, there are plenty of things you can do to help. Have a discussion about potential interests, suggest where to search for a job. When suggesting jobs, take his/her strengths into account. For instance, some people prefer working alone on the computer, while others might like routine tasks.
As the parent, you are the one who knows your child best. You know what he/she wants and what he/she would be successful in. Consider both these aspects when thinking about employment goals. Talk to the career advisor at school about things that he/she should do first, such as vocational training, internships or volunteer work.
You can help by listening to what your teenager has to say. Offer encouragement but make sure his/her goals stay realistic. Work to develop a support network which might include people capable of understanding challenges that he/she needs to overcome. School teachers, family friends or other professionals can be part of this network.
Whether in ABA therapy or at home, work on developing communication and social skills. Seek opportunities for organized activities, such as teams and clubs, as these will help your teenager prepare for a real job. Use role play to practice for job interviews, teaching your child to make eye contact, smile or shake hands with a potential employer.
Seeking Employment as an Autistic Adult
Having this diagnosis makes job hunting more stressful. However, if you are organized and give it your best, you might end up where you desire. The first thing to do is think about what you are best at and what you like to do. Where do you see yourself?
As access to the job market can be difficult, it might help to work with a vocational counsellor or career advisor. This person can offer you the support you need, coaching you to pursue your desired field. He/she can become part of your personal network, joining family, friends or other people who know you and want to help you.
Even though this is not something you might feel comfortable with, social networking can pave the way for finding great job opportunities. In applying for various jobs, be sure to highlight your abilities and not the things you feel less certain of. Keep going to therapy to practice communication and social interaction skills, and find effective ways to manage job-related anxiety.
Access Employment Programs
There are employment programs for autistic adults, which offer work experience placement and free support. Check out Reach Toronto or Ready Willing & Able. If you are not interested in these, you can pursue regular jobs. It is up to you whether you want to disclose your diagnosis. But it might help to speak about who you are, your goals and challenges. The job you choose should match your strengths.
Your resume should include a detailed work history, even if you only did internships or volunteer work. At home, be sure to practice your interview skills. You can organize a mock interview together with a friend or a family member. Sometimes it helps to watch videos of other people doing interviews. Choose jobs that you will feel comfortable doing, who bring you satisfaction, so you feel that you are bringing your contribution to society.
The world changes one step at a time
There are limited employment opportunities for autistic teenagers and adults. Statistics show that. But nothing happens overnight. Find the courage and pursue jobs, teaching potential employers to see beyond your diagnosis. Every individual is a valuable person who has something to offer, including in the professional domain. Always show potential employers what they stand to gain by hiring you and never give up! It is possible for autistic teenagers and adults to get jobs